Civil Conversations: Day 3, Tuscaloosa and Roll Tide Racial History


Adam Brooks stands across from the building where Autherine Lucy had to be smuggled out of campus after being the first black student to integrate the campus. © 2018 Annemarie Payson

Annemarie Payson

By Annemarie Payson

Adam Brooks, an associate professor at the University of Alabama, says he gives unofficial historical tours on his own campus to inform people of the past in order to change the future.


Brooks said he and his colleagues are not sanctioned by the University to give the tours but do so to inspire activism and create knowledge about race issues, both past and present.


“We don’t do this to make the university look bad,” Brooks said.


On day three of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s 10th annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage participants visited the campus to learn about important figures in the integration of the deep South’s school who were later memorialized through plaques, scholarships and monuments.


James Hood and Vivian Malone were two African American students at the forefront of what would become known as then-Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.”  In August of 1963, Wallace stood in the doorway of Foster Auditorium flanked by state national guard troops and refused to allow Hood and Malone to register for classes. Wallace was keeping a campaign promise to block any attempts to integrate, even physically. But after a highly publicized stand-off with federal troops, Wallace made his point, relented and Hood and Malone began their college careers.


In 1956, Autherine Lucy was the first African American student admitted to the university but was later escorted off campus and suspended following a riot of more than 6,000 protesters. University officials, who had sought to block Lucy’s enrollment, said the expulsion was necessary because  they were unable to protect her from angry students and community members. It would not be until 1988 that Lucy would return to the university to complete first her master’s degree and ultimately a doctorate.


Also during the tour, Brooks stopped outside the university president’s residence, pointing out a small building that once housed two enslaved people. Ironically, the slave quarters are now used to house lawn tools. Today, the shed is a popular destination for black students taking graduation photos that honor how far they have come.


“It is a very powerful thing,” Brooks said.